Monday, 6 June 2011

China tightens grip on the internet

New agency to monitor the net

China has set up a new agency that is going to monitor and regulate the country’s internet traffic. State-controlled news agency Xinhua quoted on June 5 a government statement, saying that the powers of different ministries have been brought together to form the State Internet Information Office (SIIO), which ‘will direct, coordinate and supervise online content management and handle administrative approval of businesses related to online news reporting’.

Xinhua added that the SIIO will ‘direct the development’ of online gaming, online video and audio businesses and online publication industries. The SIIO will also actively promote state-approved news websites, and has been assigned powers to investigate and punish websites that violate Chinese internet and telecommunications laws. The SIIO will control internet service providers to ‘improve the management of registration of domain names, distribution of IP addresses, registration of websites and internet access’.

Fighting pornography

The Chinese Government has also introduced new requirements to set up a website. New registrations will only be successful if the website owners identify themselves and justify the content of the proposed website to regulators. According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the measures are designed to fight pornography, but many consider the move as the latest attempt to tighten control over China's online community, which, with its 380 million users, is the largest and fastest growing online market in the world. Since December, tens of thousands of websites have been shut down, while the registration of new websites has been suspended.

Under the new plans,

websites without government records

will be made inaccessible by the end of September. It is hard to believe this move is merely designed to tackle online pornography, unless the Chinese Government considers hundreds of thousands of consumer, informative and chat pages as too exciting for its people.

Online gambling

The Chinese Government has also announced it is planning another major crackdown on online gambling and gaming websites, hugely popular in the country."Legalisation of gambling in China will have a long way to go", said Natasha Xie, Partner at Jun He Law Offices in Hong Kong. "Some people hope to see the government's intention to speed up, by this type of crackdown, the legalisation process of gambling, but they would probably be disappointed."

One of the reasons why China is stepping up its efforts to close down online gambling operations is the vast amount of money flowing out of the country. With the development of the internet, the online gambling market has grown significantly in the last few years. "My opinion is that this law is focused on money, transporting illegal proceeds across the border," said a Xi'an based lawyer who wishes to remain anonymous.

Michiel Willems, 2011. Copyrights apply. Pictures (1), myself (2), myself (3) and (4).